Oscar Wilde said, “Be yourself; everyone else is already taken.” This is great advice for those who are struggling with the question of how to establish a personal and professional brand… and in today’s world; that is just about everyone.
In fact, in today’s landscape filled with social media of just about every description, branding is no longer optional. Whether you are looking to get yourself hired for your first job out of school or you are looking to establish a new company, you need to be mindful of the importance of branding.
As Dan Pallotta wrote in a post for the Harvard Business Review in 2011, “Brand is everything, and everything is brand.”
Consider some of the brands that you already know. You are surely familiar with company brands like Google and Amazon, for example. There are also people that we know and with whom we associate a particular brand or idea.
Consider the following names: Oprah Winfrey, Donald Trump, Beyonce, Tyler Swift, and Miley Cyrus. For better or worse, these names bring to mind immediate thoughts and impressions because most of us in the United States, at least, recognize these names and associate certain significant impressions with them. That is “branding.”
So, you may be asking, what are some of the objectives that brands need to meet in order to be successful? There has been a lot of discussion around this topic in recent years, and there are a lot of varying opinions. In my opinion, however, when you are establishing a brand, you need at least the following five things:
1. Vision and Mission Statements
You need to start with the basics, which means you need a vision statement and a mission statement. I know that doesn’t sound very sexy, but I think it is necessary. Stephen Covey, in 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, suggests that each of us need to have a personal vision and mission statement in the same way that he recommends a written vision and mission statement for corporations and other business enterprises.
You must first start with a deep understanding of a) who you are, and b) what you want to accomplish. Having a written vision statement along with a written mission statement can help crystallize for yourself who you are and how you are different from everyone else. That leads to the second element you need for your brand in order to be successful.
You have to be original. You cannot be a “copycat” trying to present yourself as a knockoff of someone else or someone else’s idea. What is authentic about you? Additionally, you must consider how you go about conveying your authenticity. Authenticity has been a word that has been used a lot in recent years to the point that it is overused, but it still works when trying to convey the importance of your brand being “real.”
Additionally, you will need to consider which platform(s) do you intend to use to broadcast your brand. How will you be seen and heard above the “noise” that is the current landscape of brands of all types and descriptions? Between Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, Facebook, and Pinterest, just to name a few, how do you get yourself recognized as someone who has something unique to offer?
3. A mentor AND a coach.
If you are just starting out and building a new brand from scratch, or even if you are looking to freshen up your brand, I believe you also need both a mentor and a coach. Coaches serve in a very different role and have a different purpose from mentors. Mentors are your teachers. To whom do you turn when you need to learn new information or new techniques for accomplishing something? In whom do you trust to offer their best advice? From whom do you receive unconditional support? A great mentor.
However, a great mentor might be a terrible coach! A coach is someone who tells you the unvarnished truth even when you may not want to hear it. A good coach helps you get and stay “real” with yourself. A good coach won’t let you slack off when you start to feel tired because the coach’s job is to help keep you on track and stay accountable to the goals you set for yourself. If you are looking to establish a solid brand, or if you need to rebrand yourself, it is time to look for a mentor (or mentors) and a good coach.
4. A unique message.
Another must-have for any successful brand is a message that is different from the run of the mill message. What is your special, unique and authentic message? What do you have to say that hasn’t already been said? How are you going to offer your message differently so that your audience hears you and wants to hear more? Are you the “next” Tony Robbins or Oprah Winfrey, or do you have a different message or a different technique that makes you uniquely different from Tony Robbins and Oprah Winfrey? What is your unique and special message?
5. An understanding of your audience.
Along with considering your message, you must also consider who your audience is. Are you a job seeker looking to make yourself look desirable to a potential employer? Or are you an entrepreneur looking to start a new business and in need of customers or clientele? To whom do you want and need to be directing the message of your brand? How will you convey that message? Again, consider the appropriate platforms, consider your message, and market yourself accordingly.
Branding has become a reality of life in today’s world. As I tell my clients, you already have a brand whether you know or like it or not. It is much better to recognize it and take control of the brand you want for yourself. Don’t let someone else brand you without your knowledge. “Brand or be branded.” That is not original with me. I first heard my career coach, J.T. O’Donnell, CEO of Work It Daily use that phrase when I was a client of hers a few years ago.
The bottom line is that you are your brand, and it is up to each of you to build the brand you want. You can always rebrand yourself later as we grow and evolve both personally and professionally. The secret to having a successful brand, however, is to build it intentionally. You are uniquely you, and trying to copy someone else in order to build your unique brand will not work.
You are a unique blend of the talents with which you were born, the experiences that you have gathered over the course of your lifetime, and the educational background that you have acquired. No one on the planet can duplicate who you are as an individual. Take what you know about yourself and package it into a brand that will attract people who want to hear what you have to say because you are saying it in an interesting and truly authentic manner. You get to create your brand. I urge you to do a good job of it.
This post was originally published at an earlier date.
Disclosure: This post is sponsored by a Work It Daily-approved expert. You can learn more about expert posts here.
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